Posts Tagged ‘australia’

The Tyranny of Distance

Posted: 21/04/2010 by Toby in Informative
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The Tyranny of Distance by Geoffrey Blainey is a fascinating read. As the author describes in the introduction, the book started out life as a description of the transportation system of Australia, and gathered a bit more extra-transportational history as it took shape. As I read the book, the underpinnings of this focus on transportation are clearly evident, and it is these same underpinnings that actually provide a common theme throughout the history. Interesting too is the alternative look at some of the prevailing interpretations of history at the time the book was published, in 1966. I’m also enjoying its many references and comparisons to the United States.

There are a number of interesting tidbits in the book, and I’d like to share one with you. And it’s another point where Australia’s history crosses America’s. Americans were the first to invent a faster ocean going ship, referred to as a clipper ship. These ships were making record times from Liverpool to Melbourne, or more accurately, Port Phillip Heads.  These clipper ships had captains that were like rock stars in their time, with their exploits being repeated far and wide. From page 119:

A legend arose that captains of clippers had such a craving for speed that when their ships were running before a high wind with an abnormally large spread of canvas they had to padlock the sails; otherwise the mates or sailors, terrified that the ships might founder, would have been tempted to take in sail and lessen the risk and thereby the speed.  If ‘padlocking the halyards’ was acutally practised, then a change of wind in the night could have dismasted the ship while the captain was fumbling for the key. There is no evidence that padlocks were carried but the existence of the myth reflects the part played by reckless, driving captains in the heyday of clippers.

Speeds achieved by American clippers in the 1850’s, speeds probably never again acheived by sailing ships, came from the design of the clippers, the kind of cargoes they carried, their bold captains and big crews, the new short lived Great Circle route, the charts of Matthew Fontaine Maury, and above all the unusal economic incentive for speedy passages.


Posted: 18/03/2009 by Toby in Informative, News
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An interesting tidbit of information for those of you who have seen the movie Australia with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Towards the beginning there is a scene where Hugh is driving Nicole back to the property and a girl comes up beside the truck, I actually know her, her real name is Becky and when I was Young Women’s President back at home, she attended Young Womens and is a member of the church . She is a pretty young lady and yes she is aboriginal.

On another note. This last week on my perusing of the food store (giant), it’s having a big overhaul so everything is moved all over the place so I am relearning where all the foods I normally buy are now. Well I noticed on one of the new isles a few Aussie gems, aero bars, mars bars, milo and last but not least Ribena. I loved that stuff when I was a kid. Funny enough when Toby and I went home a few years back I tried to get some but we had no luck, well it’s now in our local store, at the nice price of $9. NOT CHEAP. I figured it was worth it to give Toby a try and me a memory back. The worst part of it was the label that was added by America covers the part where it says you have to dilute it, it’s a concentrate. So for all of those Americans that might want to give it a go will probably be instantly turned off due to not realising it’s a concentrate, as they go about chugging it down at full strength. That said I like mine rather strong :)

Reminds me of the issue with Vegemite, Americans try to spread it like peanut butter, but it actually needs to be very sparsely spread as the flavour is strong. Which adds to the reason why Americans normally don’t like it. That said some foods just don’t travel well across the seas. I would say that for me and haggis, we are not friends, I’m glad the Scots like it, but they can keep it.

My favourite place for finding Aussie foods here in DC is World Market. The store near us recently closed down so it’s an added trip and and the parking is terrible to the one that’s closest to us now. I remind myself that I’ll be going home soon and all the foods I love will be at my disposal once more and cheaper than here. Yum… planks just came to mind, I don’t think Toby has tried those yet, we’ll have to remedy that.


Posted: 13/03/2009 by Toby in News
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I don’t know if Sharole will like me breaking the news, but here goes. Last night we put our money where our mouth is, and we have flights to Australia in May. That seems like 2 months away and all, but it’s not long to get everything squared away.

Rory will be joining the family on the trip, since I will be staying behind to get our house all cleaned up and cleared out.